NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Every year, it seems the Information Economy just can't get any dumber. Somehow it does.
Perhaps it's the crisp air, or the family magically getting along -- or that we've simply survived another 12 months. But there it is, this time of year: that tingle of hope that maybe, juuuuust maybe, this past spin around the sun will be the one where the Three Stooges Information Economy finally cuts out the investor pratfalls. Finally, legit business logic finally will grab a spot at the Digital Age musical chairs.
The actual dollar damage 2013 will inflict has yet to be totted up. Most major, pure-play information companies report their annual results in early 2014, so those critical, full-year performance figures are still a quarter or so away. But Warren Buffett-like vision will not be required to realize this past year was a year when, bull market or no bull market, investors paid more, got less and took on nearly absurd risk.
"I'm dubious about all the good news out there," said Cleveland, Ohio-based real estate investment exec Bruce Ratner, chairman of Forest City Ratner Cos.. He's the fellow who had the guts to bet on developing downtown Brooklyn all the way back in 1980s. "The markets are basically kind of like this," he said, wobbling his hand out in front him like a dinghy fighting through an ocean storm. "And that's on a good day."
"It's still pretty bad out there," he said.
In the spirit, therefore, of hoping that this year might truly be the stupidest the Information Economy ever gets, here's what took the gold, silver and bronze for Dumbest Trends in 2013.
1. Not keeping the bull market bull#@$% straight
This year showed investors exactly what goes south when investors gin tech stocks north without a clue for why they're paying the premiums they are. The only thing higher than the share prices for Google (GOOG), Amazon (AMZN) and Facebook (FB) was the pile of investor rationales for the crazy prices they paid.
Quick test: In four words or less, describe exactly how this year's top Information Age value stories -- say, the Google Glass immersive computer device, or Amazon's Prime Air flying drone delivery technology or streaming music services Pandora (P) or Spotify -- actually make money? Is it:
A) Increasing advertising revenue
B) Increased customer fees
C) Decreased costs
D) All of the above
The answer of course, was "D) All of the above." This year, the Information Economy tried to be all things to all investors -- which really makes its worth nothing to anybody.
"It's amazing to me how poor a job the Web has done in explaining how the basics of the business actually work," Chas Edwards, a new media entrepreneur and co-founder of Federated Media, told me. "It's been a long time to still not know what drives this business."